Consumer Trends

Americans remain torn on tipping etiquette

There are still different views on how much to give baristas, delivery people and even servers, according to a Bank of America survey.
Thirty-five percent of people say they tip 20% when dining in. | Photo: Shutterstock

The etiquette around how much to tip a server, barista and delivery driver is still very much in flux.

That’s according to a new survey from Bank of America, which asked more than 2,000 consumers about the unwritten rules of tipping. 

The results showed that people have different views about the appropriate amount to tip in different dining scenarios, suggesting there is still gray area in the rules even as tipping becomes more common. 

The uncertainty even extends to the long-established practice of tipping your server at a full-service restaurant. Thirty-five percent of respondents said 20% was the appropriate amount, while 27% said they tip 15%. Nine percent said they give 25% or more.

Other research has found that 20% has become the standard when dining in. Data from POS provider Toast, for example, shows that the average full-service tip has hovered just below 20% since 2018, with a slight uptick during the thick of the pandemic.

[For more on tipping trends, check out our special report, Tipping Point.]

Of course, customers are no longer expected to tip only at full-service restaurants. It’s now common to be asked for a tip at coffee shops, QSRs and even when picking up your food yourself. The rise of food delivery has created yet another tipping occasion. And yet it seems far from clear how much is the right amount in each of these settings. 

According to the BofA survey, 34% of people don’t tip at all when ordering coffee. Thirty percent give 10% or less, and 14% give a 15% tip.

The sentiment is similar when it comes to tipping for takeout. Again, 34% of people said they don’t tip when picking up their food. About a quarter leave 10%; 16% give 15%; and 12% give 20%.

For “convenience services,” which include food delivery and ride-sharing, about a quarter of people tip 10% or less, while another quarter give 15%. Sixteen percent leave a 20% tip, while 14% leave no tip.

Tipping has crept into more and more transactions lately in part due to restaurants’ labor crunch. Asking customers for gratuities is a way to boost workers’ pay at no cost to the operator. Plus, with the spread of digital payments, it’s become easier to ask for a tip at checkout.

Consumers aren’t necessarily thrilled with this trend. For instance, more than 6 in 10 said they’re strongly opposed to tipping at fast-food places like McDonald’s, according to a survey by Technomic. About a third were against the practice at fast casuals and coffee shops. 

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